NEW YORK — The top two Republican candidates for New York City mayor faced each other Sunday for the last time before the party primary in an at-times testy debate that touched on topics including the New York Police Department's policies and each other's strengths and weaknesses.
Ex-MTA chairman Joe Lhota had a consistent lead in polls over billionaire grocery store magnate John Catsimatidis going into Sunday's debate. But Catsimatidis has blanketed the airwaves with ads, and a strong debate performance could affect the outcome of the primary. Low Republican turnout is expected in the heavily Democratic city.
In their previous debate, the two men frequently traded barbs and expressed exasperation during heated exchanges on New York Police Department policy and public safety. That testiness came through in their second debate as well.
In an exchange where Catsimatidis criticized Lhota for his decisions as deputy mayor in Rudy Giuliani's mayoral administration, Lhota angrily ended with, "John, get your facts straight."
At another point, where the candidates were asked whether they had questions for each other, Lhota stared straight ahead as Catsimatidis faced him to ask a question. Lhota declined to ask his opponent anything.
For his part, Catsimatidis made repeated reference to Lhota's technical skills, contrasting it with what he called his own visionary capability.
"I've been a CEO for 44 years, and I am used to hiring people to perform technical tasks. I've hired hundreds of people with the qualifications of Joe," he said. He added, "But you need a visionary, you need somebody that creates."
Both candidates expressed support for NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, as well as the department's controversial street stop policy. Both called for hiring more police officers.
Among Democrats, Bill de Blasio has surged in the polls. The primary election is Sept. 10 and the general election is Nov. 5.